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Henry Clay High School senior adopts ELL Camp at elementary alma mater, provides needed support


In a clever example of paying it forward, a rising senior helped support a summer program at his former elementary school.

When Joseph Craven, who is in the Liberal Arts Academy at Henry Clay High School, contacted the Family Resource Center coordinator looking for an opportunity to volunteer at The Academy for Leadership at Millcreek, she paired him with July’s ELL Camp. The grant-funded, two-week day camp for English language learners provided enrichment activities for nearly a dozen immigrants who hailed from Congo, Iraq, Mexico, Taiwan, Haiti, Ukraine, and Tanzania, and whose native languages included Swahili, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Ukrainian, and French-based Haitian Creole.

The grant-funded, two-week ELL day camp for English language learners provided enrichment activities for nearly a dozen immigrants who hailed from Congo, Iraq, Mexico, Taiwan, Haiti, Ukraine, and Tanzania.

“In their classrooms, it can be hard,” said ELL teacher Laura Reagan, “but here, all the different cultures have bonded. It’s building community among them.”

The children focused on reading, writing, speaking, and listening to better comprehend English and tackled math exercises with Reagan and assistants Norma Myers and Becky Ward. The group also took Friday field trips to the Kentucky Horse Park and the Old State Capitol in Frankfort. “Some of them have been here awhile but haven’t had those experiences, so it’s cool to take them outside of Lexington,” Reagan said.

One of the youngsters’ favorite parts of camp was when Joseph stopped by to deliver donations and spend a little time with them. “The most satisfying thing was seeing the smiles on their faces and seeing their excitement when I read a book,” he said.

Joseph ultimately handed out enough coloring books, storybooks, and chapter books for each child to take home 12 to 15 different titles. “The books immerse them in English and teaches it quicker than a classroom environment,” he added.

Joseph had considered a river cleanup at Millcreek or a book drive, and then opted for the ELL Camp as his Eagle Scout project with Troop 382. “My little sister goes here now, and I always get a sense of nostalgia when I come in and still feel connected,” he explained. “It was a really good opportunity.”

Up front, Joseph worked with Reagan and FRYSC coordinator Leigha Checa to gather the gently used books, loads of school supplies, and three grocery carts of food. He sought contributions through his social media network and distributed flyers to the public outside a Kroger, where he gathered weekend snacks for the ELL kids.

The tote bags full of colorful folders, crayons, and pencils also thrilled the youngsters. “They’re excited about the notebooks, and it’s a big, big help,” Reagan added.

For the second week, Joseph brought take-home bags of rice and beans for the camp’s Family Night, where he played games with the students while their parents received volunteer training in their own languages so they will feel more comfortable interacting with their child’s school.

“He was a huge blessing and help to our ELL Camp,” Reagan said. “It’s amazing and shows what Millcreek did for him.”

From Fayette County Public Schools


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